Motivation in Mid-Summer

This evening, I took a walk – trailing by rivers swelling and gurgling from the recent storms, huffing up hot cement hills – all the while trying to breathe deeply through my nose and hold back my shoulders. That kind of pose exudes confidence, and positivity, and my thoughts inevitably followed.

I was thinking about motivation.

It was the exactly the kind of walk I needed. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m running a race with no end, and my inner self is thirsting with no quenching drink in sight. Sweat was running off my forehead as I walked. My exertion translated into some fresh thinking.

I was shifting my thinking towards motivation.

Several weeks ago, Frank Spohr of The Leadership Crucible got in touch with me about an infographic he thought I might find interesting. The infographic outlines ways in which to build individual and team motivation (see the related webpage here). I read through it quickly at first, but returned to it several times to absorb and evaluate the message.

Below I have included that infographic; however, I’d like to discuss its relevance for me and its applicability to daily (as well as working) life in some detail here.

7-sure-fire-ways-for-building-motivation

I’ve been rushing in a lot of different directions recently, ignoring my inner self as it yearns for peace and time alone. I’ve also been motivating myself on variables contrary to my essential nature. My actions, as a result, have been emotional.

The infographic highlights seven key ways that you can motivate yourself and others in a team, by:

  1. Knowing yourself
  2. Understanding your primary motivators
  3. Job characteristics
  4. Goal setting
  5. Organizational justice
  6. Promote self-efficacy
  7. Get the right fit

Knowing yourself and your reaction to taking tangible action begins with understanding the manifestation of potentially less-than-desirable personal characteristics. Are you a neurotic person? Then perhaps you’ll need some really set routines to find the energy to move forwards. I’ve been living a really chaotic life lately – I have no set schedule or routine, and find motivating myself a challenge as a result.

Understanding your motivators can influence how perkily you get up in the mornings. Do you go out of your way to be physically active and perhaps burn off all that extra energy? Would you rather take a walk in the fresh air than be desk-bound? Then you’re probably not going to be highly motivated in a team of people who need to work in a quiet, darkened basement for long hours. Tranquility is another motivator. My brain has been missing out on tranquil, mentally ‘deep’ tasks – I’m either rushing through the day with a ton of work and coming to these ‘deep’ tasks exhausted, or not getting to them at all.

Job characteristics are the intangible benefits which the task bestows upon the pursuer. Knowing the results of the work that you’re doing, receiving feedback, and having autonomy are three key motivators which struck a cord in me. It’s hard to work in a vacuum. It’s impossible to work in a vacuum where you’re also powerless to take action. My work has been generated independently more often than not, which in a team situation makes it a challenge for me to give up tasks and share my work. A collaborative, egalitarian team environment is going to share work over the course of the project, allowing the team to keep on task and contribute equally to the final result.

Goal setting is the core of every workout program, PhD thesis, and company which has ever been successfully and satisfactorily completed. To reach a huge, longer-term goal, there must be mini-milestones along the way. That final end goal should also be regarded as important by all parties involved. Lately, I’ve lost sight of the bigger picture and long-term goals – an important refocusing exercise which I know will greatly increase my motivation.

Organizational justice – of course, fairness in the work space is critical to the feelings of openness and pleasure that people take from working on a project as a group. However, I’ve had a lot of negative conversations lately with people outside of the work space. They feel that life, more than any one individual factor, is operating against them. This sense of injustice against life may have many root causes – e.g. you’re not hanging out with the right people, you need to reframe your worldview, or you need to change your personal situation. I feel like these conversations bring my own outlook down to a more negative level, and should therefore be avoided or actively reframed.

Promoting self-efficacy is a way to feel like a strong, accomplished person in everything that you do. Having mastery over a certain experience, seeing others achieve a goal, finding encouragement in others, and reducing your own stressful emotions are all a part of improving your personal self-efficacy. Although Malcolm Gladwell’s controversial ‘10,000-hour rule’ suggests that you can achieve mastery over an activity through consistent practice, it is also important to remember that we cannot motivate ourselves to do something which we dislike and from which we receive very little in the way of positive feedback.

This leads to the final point on the infographic, which is, great the right fit between the people and the environment in which they work. If you’re in an environment which is drawing you in a direction which does not correspond with your inner needs, personality traits, and desires, you will perform poorly and not achieve your full potential. This is true for your personal and professional life.

Do you have any personal experiences which have found you in a situation or habit which has left you feeling unmotivated or low-energy? Comment and share below!

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. robertlfs says:

    Maria,

    An extremely important concept I also believe is relevant here is that this whole living thing is a process and not an event. That is, we never get there, till we are dead. I have found that there are important stops along the way – goals as you note – but I view them as nodes on a continuum of development.

    I find also that what is right or appropriate today might have changed by tomorrow. I am much more comfortable and productive in a frame that does not require permanence or rigidity.

    Best wishes,

    Robert

  2. marialegault says:

    Hello Robert,
    Ah, this is all so very true! And yet also terribly challenging for me to remember in my day-to-day life. That elusive long-term view of life as process is something that I try to keep in mind. It’s hard not to get caught up in the regrets of yesterday and immediate stresses of today.
    It’s also very easy for me to sink into a routine on which I am dependent, and become resistant towards change. Existing in a landscape of uncertainty feels uncomfortable – this feeling is likely a part of my forgetting that life is about the journey, and that ‘stuff happens’ along the way! I will take your words to heart, and remember that flexibility and long-term development is a benefit (even if it is painful/scary/confusing).
    Thanks so much, and take care,
    Maria

  3. AndyCee says:

    I love a good post about motivation! 🙂

    To me, losing motivation is something that happens over and over again, like getting sick with a cold. Yes, I can get regain my motivation just like I regain my health, and yes, I can get better at bouncing back more quickly and even avoiding the circumstance to begin with, but I’d never say it won’t happen again.

    To take the analogy further, knowing that I’ll eventually get a cold again means I stay motivated (ha!) to wash my hands well and often, drink lots of water, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, etc. Knowing that I’ll eventually hit a slump in my motivation means I keep up the habits of checking in with myself, assessing how I’m doing from day to day, working within a routine that makes sense for me, etc. It’s something I have to keep doing because I’ll never outrun this problem! But I can tell I’m strengthening my motivation-health. 🙂

    Great post, Maria.

  4. marialegault says:

    Oh! Magnificent! I love the connection between physical health and your mental energy to tackle projects, Andy 🙂 And the preventative measures that you recommend are wonderful ones to keep in mind to moderate/sustain motivation levels over time.

    I also like your recommendation to accept periods of reduced motivation. If you prepare well for them, they can be less emotionally distressing! And clearly, you know how to navigate these periods of time quite well.

    Thanks so much for the great suggestions, and I’m glad that you enjoyed the post! Take care.

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